OC Committee Gets Plenty Of Input On Mining Ordinance Revisions

Jun 6, 2018

Lac du Flambeau Tribal President Joseph Wildcat, Sr. addressing Oneida County Planning and Development members and staff.
Credit WXPR

The Oneida County committee working to get it's mining ordinance in compliance with state laws gave the public a chance to hear on the revisions. They heard from people who wanted changes in the proposal, but also a lot of comment, mostly against, but some in favor of mining.

Members of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. including President Joseph Wildcat, Sr., and council member Brooks Big John said mining is unwanted. Their attorney Andrew Adams told the committee they have the resources now to litigate any mine in Oneida county...

"....there is a variety of federal and state laws that will come into play concerning any actions taken by not only the county but any mining interest that relate to a whole spectrum of concerns...."

One of the authors who revised state law that requires counties to get their local ordinances to comply was State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst. He said mining would help reverse the loss of jobs and population...

"....and it's billions of dollars of wealth that is beneath the ground. As one person who testified at our hearing in Ladysmith said, 'you're sitting on a treasure chest'. It's a comparative advantage we have over the rest of the state. It's a comparative advantage that few other parts of the country have...."

But Mike Wiggins, chair of the Bad River Band, said his tribe's experience in fighting a mine in Ashland and Iron counties gave experience most government's don't have in dealing with mining companies. He says even with the revision of code, Oneida county is vulnerable to mining interests...

"...One of the things that I see that is not in there is how you're going to protect yourselves. Protect yourself with the science, the data and hydrological data and toxicity reports and all the things your going to need to truly make decisions whether to permit these things...."

Dr. George Karling of Three Lakes says the schools in the region are losing enrollment as the population drops...

"....I'm very familiar with the school districts of northern Wisconsin. All of these school districts have experienced significant decling enrollments in the past few years. Three Lakes has lost nearly half of their student population...and other districts have seen similiar declines. I support mining in northern Wisconsin because it can be done responsibly and with no damage to the environment..."

But many of the speakers agreed with Karen Isebrands Brown...

"...why on earth would we lease our land with precious water on it to anyone who is going to end up depositing through the process, sulfuric acid, mercury,lead, cadmium, zinc and copper in our county's precious waters?..."

The full county board will consider the matter at this month's meeting and make a decision on the revisions.